An Educator's Guide to the GLI:

Elite US College Prep for Tibetan Students


The Global Leadership Incubator (GLI) was founded in 2012 in partnership with Department of Education (DoE) and the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) for providing opportunities for brilliant Tibetan students in India to study in top-notch colleges/universities in U.S.

This guide is designed to help Tibetan educators prepare their students for GLI candidacy and, more generally, for applying to elite undergraduate institutions in the United States.


Tibetan students beginning to apply to U.S. universities may become easily overwhelmed, but focusing on the following steps below will make the process less daunting.

  1. Have the best candidates start the application process early. The details of the TOEFL test, Common Application, and supplemental essay writing can be found in this document. Application deadlines are typically in November-December of each year.
  2. Instruct strong student applicants to contact the GLI directly by sending an email to Tell them to introduce themselves, explain that they are getting ready to apply to college, and ask any questions they may have.
  3. Instruct students to read and re-read the Common Application requirements, as well as the specific application requirements for the current GLI-participating schools, as each university is different.
  4. Make sure applicants are ready to provide official documents when requested. These will include an IC, Green Book, RC, and Academic transcripts since 9th grade. The TOEFL test requires the IC, and colleges require the other citizenship documentation, which means that the GLI will need high-resolution scans of these documents in order to help students.
  5. Make sure applicants have three signed faculty recommendations ready. We will need the e-mails, phone numbers, full titles, and school name. If the person is a counselor, we will need more information like the average class size, etc.

The TOEFL Exam

The Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, is a standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers wishing to enroll in U.S. universities. The test is accepted by many English-speaking academic and professional institutions.

All students should take a TOEFL diagnostic exam in their Junior Year (10th grade). Even earlier is better. Elite US colleges require a score of 100 or higher on the TOEFL exam for consideration.

After taking the diagnostic test, high-scoring students should prepare for the official exam in their Senior Year.

TOEFL Preparation

1. In order to prep for the TOEFL, the online Magoosh course is the best way to prepare, although the cost is steep: US $79 for 6 months of prep, and $49 for one month of prep. If the TOP-PERFORMING student on the TOEFL diagnostic test does not have access to the funds required to take the Magoosh online course, GLI may be able to sponsor it.

All students applicants should buy and study with the best TOEFL prep book available to them.

2. Top-ranked TOEFL test prep books include:

3. It is detrimental to simply plow through all the practice tests. It is helpful to take a full practice test in hopes of identifying any particular weak area, but the best way to prepare is by working with an online course or book from beginning to end.

4. Students should take at least one practice test under realistic conditions by going to a quiet area and taking the entire test all at once with the amount of time typically allotted.


Supplemental Essays

In addition to the essay required by the Common Application, students must write supplementary essays for specific schools.

This past year, the three schools of focus were Amherst, Bowdoin and Brandeis, in part because they do not require the SAT test (although they do require the TOEFL), and in part because they are supportive of international students getting financial aid. Students should look up the supplementary essay questions for these three schools, and e-mail drafts to GLI advocates for support. Students and staff should also check in to make sure the list of participating GLI schools is the same, as it may change.

Below are the U.S. college rankings of Amherst, Bowdoin, and Brandeis.

US News and World Report College and University Rankings:

Liberal Arts Colleges:
Amherst: #2
Bowdoin: #5

National Universities:
Brandeis:  #35     

Suggested Timeline of Activities for GLI applicants

10th Grade

  • Student should take the diagnostic TOEFL exam in the 10th or 11th grade. Top TOEFL diagnostic performers should be picked out as possible candidates for GLI, as long as they also have exemplary grades, an outgoing personality, and commitment to the Tibetan cause.
  • Students should start thinking about their recommendation letters and make sure to keep in touch with teachers.

11th Grade

  • Midway through 11th grade, top candidates should contact the GLI and begin the application process.
  • Serious prep for the TOEFL exam must begin midway through 11th grade.
  • At the end of 11th grade, students should request 1-page college recommendation letters from their 11th grade faculty (one in math, one in humanities, and one from a school administrator).
  • The Common Application process should begin over the summer when the student finished 11th grade. Drafts of two essays from Common App prompts must be completed by the end of the summer. The student should also gather recommendations and required documentation at this time.

12th Grade

  • The TOEFL exam must be taken by September when the student begins the 12th grade.
  • If the student scores 100 or above on the TOEFL, they will be eligible to complete the Common App essay, (with the help of the GLI). This process will run from September to the end of November of the student’s 12th year.
  • The GLI will assist the best candidates in applying to specific schools. Supplementary essays will be completed and submitted in November.

Writing Excellent Recommendation Letters

Because of the highly competitive applicant pool at top US colleges, letters of recommendation hold substantial weight in admissions decisions. A well-written letter for an outstanding applicant can highlight impressive characteristics, offering perspectives beyond personal essays and transcripts. Top schools are looking for students who make an impact - this makes the difference between a letter that supports a student and a letter that raves about a truly special student.

To help your students gain admission to top schools, please refer to the following resources for educators. Your students have worked hard to achieve success. Help them realize their dreams with the best recommendation letters possible.

College Board: "Recommendation Guidelines for School Counselors"

Scribendi: "How to write a great recommendation letter"

MIT: "Guide to writing recommendation letters for competitive schools"